Making Public Participation Real

Mark Steele, MPP

Member of the PPP committee

MEMBERS of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature met recently with a visiting delegation of MPLs and officials from Mpumalanga.  Our provincial legislature has prided itself on its public participation model, but interacting with our colleagues from Mpumalanga indicated that there are different and better ways of achieving much more meaningful public participation.

Both provinces host what are called ‘sector parliaments’ which are dedicated to promoting the concerns of women, youth, workers and senior citizens.  These sector parliaments are meant to be an opportunity for these interest groups to bring their concerns before the Legislature and hopefully get some response from the provincial government.  The reality is that sector parliaments are driven by party political agendas and the various women’s and youth formations of the major parties dominate the proceedings.

Mpumalanga has wisely moved to affording civil society organisations, CBOs and NGOs, a more decisive role in both setting the agendas for sector parliaments and in actually participating in these meetings.  This leads to serious issues being placed on the table and prevents party political issues from dominating discussion.  It is a way to encouraging real participation and engagement with organised civil society on the issues of the day and the lives lived by ordinary citizens.